Week 8

Theatre

Arcola Theatre: The Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekhov 

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I was really looking forward to this. I like the Arcola, and I had seen this cast recently in another Russian revolution play (The Lower Depths).

Sadly, the event didn’t live up to the expectation. The comedy elements suffered from bad timing ( if you’re going to do slapstick, you have to do it well), and the cast seemed as if they couldn’t be bothered to give it their all. The set was good, but the play wasn’t, sadly. I did something I almost never do- in fact I can’t remember the last time I did it- and left at the interval.

Books

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The Man in the High Castle has been recently revived for TV, so I thought it was about time I read it. Of course, I’d forgotten how bleak Philip K Dick’s worlds are, and how unsympathetic I always find his characters.  I ploughed through it without a great deal of enjoyment.

In contrast,  Night Sessions was wonderful. A cyberpunk crime novel with religion as motive, set in an alternate near-future. All my favourite sub-genres rolled into one brilliant package. This goes onto my “read again” pile.

Finally, Alice. I wish I hadn’t bought this book. It was a great disappointment. I will say no more.

Week 7

A quiet week.

Culture

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Watched the the three remaining parts of the Ring. Really enjoyed Die Walkure. Siegfried was as annoying as usual, and Gotterdammerung felt slightly low-key. Even so, this was one of the best-voiced Rings I have seen/heard.

I caight up with the Portrait Artist of the Year in a one-afternoon binge-watch. I hadn’t realised this was on, and am glad to have found it before the heats end. My money is on the guy who painted Ben Okri on a concreted-over cupboard door.

Street Art

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I came across this truly awful thing in Woolwich. It was apparently presented to the town by the Mayor of Reinickendorf, Berlin.

Woolwich is, interestingly, divided by a wall. Inside, nearest the river, is the “cultural quarter”. Posh new flats, expensive bars and cafes, the farmers market….

Outside, the rougher, more common, old Woolwich, with a giant Wetherspoons pub and a big screen in the town centre showing perpetual sport (snooker on the afternoon I took this photo). It is interesting that a nice statue of the goddess Nike, presented to the borough, is inside the wall. The ghastly bear is firmly on the outside.

Books

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A bit disappointed in this. A murder mystery within a murder mystery. It had all the tropes, and I wonder if Horowitz was playing the same game as his fictional author. I’d give this 5 out of 10.

 

Week 6

Culture

Royal Shakespeare Company:The Tempest

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I really wanted to see this particular production, but couldn’t get to it in Stratford on Avon (too far) or on its London transfer (the Barbican, terrifyingly easy to get lost). Luckily, with the wonders of modern technology, I was able to see an encore “as live” performance at the cinema. I loved this. The use of motion-capture for Ariel was inspired, and Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero was perfect casting.

Blackeyed Theatre: Frankenstein

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This was a fairly faithful-to-the-book production, which I enjoyed immensely, despite the theatre being an absolute ice-box. It was probably the coldest day of the year, and there seemed to be no heating at all- fitting for the opening scenes of the play, in the arctic ice, I suppose.

The cast was small (5 actor-musicians), who produced very good weather effects with a range of percussion instruments. The creature was played by a wonderful puppet, animated and voiced by two, sometimes three of the cast working together . This play is likely to go on tour, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Opera North: Das Rheingold

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I love the Ring, and this was a chance to see a new and acclaimed performance of the first opera in the cycle. I had hoped for a more “staged” performance, but I ended up enjoying it very much. I particularly liked the Loki (Loge) in this production, which was broadcast on radio, TV and via various web sites. I chose TV and the comfort of my own sofa. The three “main” works in the cycle are only available online, and I shall watch them at my leisure in the coming days.


The “I don’t know how to categorise this” section

Goldsmiths forensic psychology department: The Accused

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This was an “immersive theatre” event, where the audience played the part of jurors in a murder trial. There was, obviously, a psychology aspect to the event, and it transpired that on the evening I attended, the audience were primed and manipulated to give a “guilty” verdict, which we duly did. The event was a bit of a pick and mix- there was a band, and dancing (with prizes); there was a film, and some good acting (and some not so good, but they were students, so this was to be expected). There were some problems with accoustics, and some confused instructions, which could have skewed the data that was collected. Overall, this was a very interesting evening, and knowing that I can be so easily influenced to give a particular opinion is food for thought.
Books

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Only one book this week ( I’ve been busy), but I am still well on track to meet my target of 100 books by the end of the year.

The Janissary Tree is the first in a series of period novels (set in nineteenth-century Istanbul) about Yashim, a eunuch detective who likes to cook. It was a good story, and I like the protagonist and his sidekick Preen, a transgender dancer of a certain age. I have a particular liking for “cooking” detectives, especially when there is enough description for me to be able to recreate the recipes. I shall read more of the Yashim books, I am sure.

Week 5

Culture

The Lower Depths:Maxim Gorky

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I loved this play. A wonderful cast, a good design, well-matched to the performance space, good direction. I like the Arcola, and this play fitted well, resonating with current events almost scarily at times. This was my first Gorky, but I hope it won’t be my last.

Written on Skin: George Benjamin (music), Martin Crimp (text)

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I really wish I could have seen this opera live at the Royal Opera House, but the only ticket available this final week was way out of my price range. The video does allow for close-ups of the cast and set, and gives some different viewpoints ( e.g. the pages of the book from directly above) which wouldn’t be available to a live audience, but I love the atmosphere of a live opera, and it didn’t feel as good sitting on my own sofa. I wish, I wish I could have seen this live. I loved it.

Books

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Two different types of crime books this week.

King Dido doesn’t have a central case, and having the criminal as the protagonist made a change. I thoroughly disliked the main detective, but thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Six Four takes us to Japan, and the press relations section of a local police force. I like to find out about different cultures and different ways of policing, and this is as different as you can get. The emphasis on “face” and group loyalty is very interesting, and the case plays out nicely if slowly. I’m interested to see how the central character develops.